Thursday, December 16, 2010


In London, it was announced that Julian Assange will be freed on bail. And today in the cold, in front of the White House, there was a demonstration, and more, an act of peaceful resistance against the war in Afghanistan.

People can see that acts of resistance like this really matter. Among those in Washington DC who chained or tied themselves to the fence in front of the White House were Daniel Ellberg of Pentagon Papers fame, and Chris Hedges, former NYT correspondent, who has covered wars as a reporter and won a Pulitzer Prize. Colleen Rowley, a whistleblower who has been in the news, and Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, were among 135 protesters who were arrested late this afternoon.
Raw Story was able to confirm the arrests of Ellsberg, McGovern, Rowley and Hedges, along with Veterans for Peace members Elliott Adams, Mike Ferner, Mike Hearington

Sunday, December 12, 2010

copeland morris SHELTER

I smell the cold and my shoulders straighten.
Winter raps at the door, no longer a stranger
To flights of leaves, rearranged.
For all to whom my greeting comes
Each letter steadies my hand
Like shelter to comfort me in bitter weather.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


The timeless Mark Twain wrote this in a letter to Danish writer, Carl Thalbitzer:
My wife does not allow this manuscript to be published, and as ninety-nine parts of me forbid me to make myself comprehensively and uncompromisingly odious, it has not been difficult to persuade me to restrict the reading of it to myself! But you shall read it when you come to see me; then perhaps you will believe with me that civilizations are not realities, but only dreams; dreams of the mind, not of the heart, and therefore fictitious, and perishable; that they have never affected the heart and therefore have made no valuable progress; that the heart remains today what it always was, as intimacy with any existing savage tribe will show. Indeed the average of the human brain is not a shade higher today than it was in Egyptian times ten thousand years ago.
The empire dream is, without doubt, one of the most brittle dreams of the mind; and the fall of an empire, the point of slipping away, is the moment when corruption gains the upper hand; and the permanent values have to be gathered from the wreckage of broken, impermanent things.

Technological progress has not made human beings better; and with the waging of class warfare, it is the wealthy sector of society that has purchased government outright, and has created a bicameral apparatus for implementing political and military policy, controlling how people live and the kinds of things they think about. This control is not yet absolute; but it is effective enough, in that it permits the looting of the wealth that people at several levels of society have accumulated. The new corporate power is also invested in converting the middle class into an underclass, and ultimately turning the underclass into a slave class; where slaves, of course, are the most invisible, ignored, and expendable class.

Thomas Frank, in the December issue of Harper's Magazine, has described the peculiar deterioration of academia in this country; a market glutted with historians, for instance, where he describes the complaints of colleagues and friends who "...all told the same story of low-wage toil, of lecturing and handing out A's while going themselves without health insurance or enough money for necessities."

His article concentrates on failing standards of professional journalism and the further exploitation of workers there, that he traces to the creation of what he calls "content-mills", in which professional people are tethered to the same economic models that are degrading academia. There is a reliance on the input of focus groups. Newspapers are less and less interested in describing the world as it really is, and more inclined to tailor content to fit things the audience has been polled about, what people seem to want.

What people want, and what they are told they want, must bear a closer examination. When Walmart trumpets "ALWAYS LOWER PRICES!" it means that somewhere, sometime, someone must work for less. A world market is a collection of national markets; and societies that are brimming over with the unemployed are surely those where people are willing to scratch for life, and are left at the mercy of new robber barons, who are flush with loot and plunder.

As far as American empire-building goes, look no further than the 19th Century's Gilded Age, for the blueprint, the words of Samuel Insul:
My experience is that the greatest aid to the efficiency of labor is a long line of men waiting at the gate.  (ibid)
It looks as though Americans must be shaken by realizing that they are owned by a financial empire that has been on a looting spree, one which has not been hampered with criminal prosecutions. The criminal class in capitalism can cause a meltdown and profit from the new situation. The racketeers in the financial and banking institutions have discovered that waterboarding the Golden Goose will provide a few more eggs.

The free ride, the impunity to act without fear of punishment, is accorded to those who have the pluck to bring down the world's economy; and these lively entrepreneurs are bringing misery to hundreds of millions of people. As Mark Twain has reminded us, people need to focus on the crucial difference between permanent and impermanent things. Technology remains an enchantment to the progressive crowd; but it is a two-edged sword.
So powerful is our desire to believe in the benevolent divinity of technology that it cancels out our caution, forces us to dismiss doubt as so much simple-minded Luddism. We have trouble grasping that the Internet might not bring only good; that an unparalleled tool for enlightenment and research and transparency might also bring unprecedented down-dumbing; that something that empowers the individual might also wreck the structures that have protected the individual for decades.  (Frank)
The word on the street is that evil is ascendant; therefore take precaution as you must. The republicans keep telling their damned lies about Obama; but America's first black president reacts mildly to republican nihilism, and its bubbling cauldron of lies, believing that it is more important to work with such people, despite their ugly motives, and put up with them for the alleged good of the country. The candle snuffer of hope has disillusioned many who voted for him in 2008. American energy corporations keep blowing the tops off mountains, come what may. They pollute the rivers to get at the coal. Big natural gas producers, like Chesapeake, use millions of gallons of fresh water in fracking operations, and have turned it all into a toxic soup, which is either dumped somewhere or injected back into the earth.

If we aren't willing to give up the empire; then we can't save the country. The empire cannot be saved because it costs much more than the money spent to keep it on its feet. The empire is an impediment to our progress as human beings. It is the impermanent, but callous machine that destroys democracy. The empire maintains itself with hideous violence. The empire needs psychological war, and an immense network of outlets, for all its lies. The empire now rests on the military as its ultimate enforcer, and counts on it in a deteriorating society, to employ our jobless youth. And the empire is a financial empire at its root, feeding on debt, on compound interest, on crooked financial instruments, on drug cartels, on rigged accounting agencies; and it is only satiated when it can drink a substantial quantity of blood.

The whole process that has been dubbed, "Disaster Capitalism", cannot be allowed to go on; for the economy, like the body, can only take so many shocks before it collapses. In India, another wounded democracy, the more comfortable people are also mesmerized by the shiny bauble of corporatism, the new wave of development that is called "India Shining", where life will get better for the better-off, just as soon as some tiresome tribal people, the truly dirt-poor, are dispossessed and driven off their land.

Cue Barack Obama, a truly graceful American actor in the land of India, coming onstage with an entourage of 250 corporate representatives, and among them, men who have practical experience in securing mineral rights and opening the mines, in drilling and blasting. "India Shining", like "Change You Can Believe In", is advertised to the skies, and is described by all present as wonderful.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


(Editor's Note: the words of the poet, Heinrich Heine, evoking horrors in the past and their prophetic repetition in the world right now, seems a fitting way to introduce this commentary by our friend, Doug Hyden.)


The question should not be, “Why is burning a few a copies of the Koran in a barrel outside a church in Gainesville wrong?” The question should be, “Why is burning copies of the Koran one-by-one in surgical missile strikes and firefights all right?”

Well, here we are all upset because a few knuckleheads in middle Florida are planning to burn a few copies of the Koran. Liberals like nothing better than to work themselves into high dudgeon over a meaningless charade and make useless feel-good gestures that do…not…change…a… thing.

The proposed Koran burning is another fake story ginned up by the mainstream media’s puppet masters to fill us full of phony outrage and take our minds off the very real issues that we should be paying attention to. It is a phony issue. It is manipulated by the fascists in the Middle East to divert the peoples’ thoughts away from their murderous totalitarian agenda. It is manipulated by the “liberal media” so that we don’t have to ask the really hard questions. Questions like, “Well, if burning a few Korans will hurt our troops, why are our troops in a place where they can be hurt in the first place?” (Remember that old Vietnam poster: “We are the unwilling, led by the incompetent, to do the impossible, for the ungrateful”?)

Let ‘em burn the book, I say, and pay ‘em all the attention they deserve. This is America . This is a free country. They have a right to express their opinions. If I can say I hate phony Christians, they can say they hate Islam. This is what freedom of speech looks like, and it ain’t pretty.

Okay, most Christians don’t express their hatred as straightforwardly as the losers in Gainesville, but if you’ll examine the various creedal statements of just about every mainstream (and most non-mainstream) Christian denomination—from the Roman Catholics to the Presbyterians to the Lutherans to the Methodists to the followers of Brother Billy Bob’s Bible Church to, yes, the United Church of Christ—you’ll find a common theme. Mankind is in need of salvation, and the only road to salvation leads through belief in certain doctrines about Jesus Christ. In other words: Muslims are going to hell. It’s in our creed—the one most of recite every Sunday morning that we spend in church. We’re sticking to the same bottom line as Rev. Jones and his friends; we’re just more polite about it.

But, believe me, while we may be more polite than the Gainesville crowd, the United States hates Islam. What is it but hatred when we give a platform megaphone to a malignant cancer like Sarah Palin or a black-hearted Lilliputian like Glen Beck and their tea party cronies to trumpet some phony anger over a “mosque at ground zero?” What is it but hatred when a mealy-mouthed President Obama and every other cowardly liberal says, “Well, they have the right to build their mosque, but it surely is a stupid idea. Yes, indeed!” The Islamic world doesn’t need us burning a few Korans to know we hate Islam.

When even Republicans like Hailey Barber and John McCain come out against burning the Koran in Gainesville, you realize how easy it is to feign horror and shock—the very idea!—of an American congregation burning the holy books of another religion. What is difficult for us to swallow is the fact that official American policy is to burn the Koran every single day. We do it with tanks. We do it with flame throwers. We do it with “smart bombs,” cruise missiles, and drone airplanes day in and day out. A book is just as badly burned if it is incinerated by a missile strike directed from hundreds of miles away as it is if it is placed in a barrel, doused with Kerosene, and incinerated with a Zippo. That is where we should direct our outrage instead of letting our attention be diverted by a few attention-grabbing fools in Gainesville .

Monday, August 30, 2010


November outruns its own shadow,
A map that reveals the future;
"It's better to possess it," they think.
A single word can destroy the world
Opened as wide as the mouth of Shiva:
The winter stripped of consequence
Like Kennedy without angles
At the end of the beginning
When every moment is illuminated
And silence lingers long after
The breakfast that couldn't stay down.
It's so like Camelot where we saddle up
The true Lincoln Convertible,
The nation's jumpseat where Jack
Lies bleeding.

Monday, July 12, 2010

copeland morris THE RAIDING PARTY

(for Christopher)

They will come for us, too.
There will be no place left to stand;
Darkness over the water...
Moonless water that became our highway.
Furkan Dogan killed.
Moonless water our highway.
His small frame, a ship dismantled
In which we remain. The melancholy
Surface that clings to the night.
Thoughts that are choreography
As the raiders boarded. The ocean
That was timed to coincide before the sun
Shows its face. A time when men
Come out on deck to say prayers. This
Coincides with hours: after the propwash
Of helicopters swept the deck. The women who are
Keening in grief can already be heard.
The Mavi Marmara is not just any ship; nor is
Gaza just any destination; nor are the Israelis
Just any raiders; nor was Basho just any composer
Of haiku. Nor was the willow under which he wrote
Just any willow. It had been planted with care
By Saigyo, a master of philosophy.
Hear me, Furkan Dogan: we have not forgotten you.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The cargo of globalization was roughly steered for a crackup in Toronto--like the hull of an old ship that is drawn to wreckage on the tides--it heaved and groaned to its doom. The very bottoms of those lackeys who run the US, are owned down to the last dime, by the speculators and the Federal Reserve and the criminal investment banks. Indeed, those who routinely gamble with our lives, the ones who legislate, have dismantled the remaining lighthouses, the laws and regulations that could have guided the captains and crews away from the rocks.

Canadian authorities spent well over a billion dollars; and it was the most stupendous sum ever paid out for security at such an event, according to Naomi Klein. And downtown Toronto was transformed into a paramilitary scene. At one official entrance to the conference, a cop announced, "the media is under arrest", when frustration boiled over, as they attempted to separate journalists with government approved lanyard ID, from others with freelance passes.

Reporter Jesse Rosenfeld was suddenly arrested and slammed to the ground by police. He had filed by the deadline for accreditation, but had not yet been issued his official lanyard. Just before this, he had been explaining that he worked for The Guardian, and showed them other credentials issued by the Alternative Media Center.
The police told me, "Oh, we don’t recognize these credentials." I explained to them that I was a journalist also with The Guardian, that I was writing for "Comment Is Free." I told them about my editors. I told them about my stories. And they said, "Well, we’ll check your credentials, and then, if it’s fine, we’ll let you go."

At that point, I was sort of taken to the side, after a bunch of media had gotten through the police line, and an officer walked up to me, looked at my ID and said—my Alternative Media Center press pass, that is—and said, "This isn’t legitimate. You’re under arrest," at which point I was immediately jumped by two police officers. I had my notepads in my hands. Grabbed my arms, they yanked back. My notepad went flying. I was hit in the stomach by one officer as I was held by two others. As I was going over, I was then hit in the back and went down. After I went down and as I went down, I smacked my leg. I had officers jump on top of me. I was being hit in the back. My face was being pushed to the concrete. All the time I’m saying, "I’m not resisting arrest. I’m a journalist. Why are you beating me?" My leg was lifted up, and my ankle was twisted, from while I was on the ground not resisting. And at that point, after I started saying these things, the police then started saying, "Stop resisting arrest," as if to try and provide cover for themselves.
Seattle and those startling demonstrations against globalization seem strangely far off in time. And now it's getting harder to ignore that a corporate police apparatus is slowly spreading its tentacles over a colonized planet. Civilians on the ground are no match for hulks in body armor. This mismatch was emphasized in Toronto, at the G-8/G-20 economic summit, where the money spigot was opened wide in 2010, and all the medieval force was in full swing.

Stefan Christoff explained the meaning of the terrible scene in Toronto to Amy Goodman:
Well, it's meant that downtown Toronto has become a fortress, literally. We could just hear now aircrafts that are hovering around the downtown core. Dissent has been erased. So, when we hear all these speeches and languages coming out of the G8 and G20 about transparency, globalization, sharing of ideas, the reality on the ground is that these meetings are happening in a militarized fortress. And the fence itself was constructed by a company that has been directly involved in contracts that are linked to the NATO-led military occupation of Afghanistan. They’re building all sorts of public work projects in cooperation with the Canadian military and the US military—this is SNC-Lavalin, based in Montreal—and also, as I mentioned, the contract with the US Army just after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. So the security fence, I mean, speaks to the whole reality today, I think, of walls around the world. We’re talking about walls going up—the US-Mexico border wall, the wall—the apartheid wall in Palestine. And at the same time, the leaders at the G8 and G20 are talking about walls coming down and free trade. But for people, walls are just going up, even in the largest city of Canada.
It's important to realize that this globalized police apparatus is a junior partner to the military nowadays; this should be evident; and it can't be said enough that the military, in this partnership, massacres civilians from the safety of helicopters. Stefan Christoff alludes to this relationship when he describes the role of a Montreal-based corporation, SNC-Lavalin, in putting together the fortifications that surround the G-8/G-20.
It’s an engineering giant. They actually produced millions of bullets between 2003 and 2005 for the US Army at the same time of the invasion of Iraq. So this is a corporation that’s inherently tied to the military-industrial complex internationally and also has been tied to the clampdown on dissent here in Toronto. It’s really incredible when you see the fence and also just see the almost 20,000 police and law enforcement officials that are patrolling the city.
And what gets put on TV? It was reported that police had arrested over 600 people; and the number might run to 1,000. A small clique of anarchists, wearing masks, destroy storefronts, break glass and burn a few cop cars. Endless close-ups of the burning cars and the shattered store displays are shown endlessly, but not so much imagery of police abusing everyday people. Those are very fleeting images, if they are seen at all. But many at the protests had video phone and cameras that can reveal more to us, in time.

Canadian academic, David Ker Thomson, filed a report in Counterpunch that describes a Toronto police action that has left his family with emotional scars. His is an old and distinguished family in the city; and these are excerpts from his report:
We are experiencing in our neighborhoods what brown people around the world have experienced at our hands. It has come home to roost. I woke this morning from a dream of Kanada, and I was weeping uncontrollably. Our children are attacked by troops openly in the street, openly in so-called "free speech zones"...

My ten-year-old was almost fucking killed when he was attacked by police in a free-speech zone. My fourteen-year-old and I were chased for two hours. [...] My friends are being dragged off to left and right, and the world watches football. I began the weekend juggling for the troops, holding out flowers, but I end hunted and in tears, paranoid and sad. It feels like the end. We are still free, but barely holding on...

Toronto, June 26, Saturday: We've done family protests in Washington and London, amongst other places, and even mingled with some serious ruckus in Buenos Aires. Never have we experienced anything as terrible as in Toronto today, Saturday, a mile from the G-20 perimeter walls. The Canadians--if these police/soldiers are even Canadian--are far and away the most vicious of any military we've ever experienced...[I]t was Eva-Lynn's idea that we would take the children to the protests [on Saturday] to experience the peaceful strong energy we always get at peace rallies. [...] By the time we got to Queen's park and walked between my wife's two offices at the university, everything appeared to be over. People were walking away. It was very peaceful, with the sun coming out after a day's rain. Like so many places downtown, there was a long line of police in riot gear here.

They were eerily quiet always. For two weeks before this, police had been moving through the city making lots of military noises with voice commands and whistles to intimidate protestants before they even thought of protesting. But during everything I'm about to relate, these police remained absolutely silent. Very spooky. A skinny little man in front of us had a small sign that said "Free Hugs." I asked Eva-Lynn if it would be okay if I went over and gave the man a hug. What happened in the next three seconds was like something out of a horror movie. I dropped Liam's hand and took one step toward the free-hug man. There was a confused pounding sound like elephants running, and it took me a moment to figure out where it was coming from. I caught a quick glimpse of the hug man being struck and dragged., then in the next micro-second realized that the police had exploded at us without warning. [...]

Luckily Liam is fast, and we just made it--I mean, just made it without being run over. With their huge exoskeletons, the men couldn't run far. They paused for a moment, and then came at us again. But this time a cluster of cavalry broke in from our left. Have you ever been hunted by horsemen? Pretty primal, I'll tell you. There are women on the beasts, too, like trussed valkyries. The policemen in the front had clearly seen that they were attacking a small child and they came on at full speed anyway without the slightest warning. I just couldn't get this out of my head. They had looked right at my little boy and attacked him.
The feckless President Obama should feel right at home amid this repression, since his country has a long history of brutalizing protesters. He came to the board meeting waving the bright banner of Keynesian stimulus spending, in the name a country strung out on a borrowing binge and toting a huge trade deficit. And our president has to sign, and agree like the others: pledging not to spend ever so madly or print a boatload of new dollars. But it's a concession without meaning. The austerity alternative is the strong-arm method, the iron glove of the IMF style of economic reform, slashing social services while servicing debt. Under this kind of debt peonage a nation can be stripped of all its movable assets by foreign financiers.

Obama may sign on the dotted line; but if he takes the nation into austerity, jobs will tank and tax revenues will wither. And there is no predicting what the people will do in a deflationary spiral. What was done to Greece by global banks, and their political stooges, can be done to us now.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Attacking in international waters, under cover of darkness, Israeli commandos boarded and seized the six ships of the Peace Flotilla, that were bound for Gaza. It is being called a massacre on the high seas, as Israel's men came aboard shooting and firing teargas. Ten people are reported dead; but judging by the first reports, the count may go higher, with dozens injured.

Go read Stephen Lendman's Slaughter at Sea:
Video footage on board the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara showed Israeli commandos opened fire during the assault, activists saying it began immediately after storming on board.

Al Zazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on the ship, said "a white surrender flag was raised (and) there was no live fire coming from the passengers."

The Free Gaza Movement reported that "Under darkness of night, Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck." No action on board provoked it. It was premeditated, willful slaughter.
This is a barbarous attack. It is also diplomatically self-defeating for Israel, to an extent that's almost beyond calculation. This is going to set off a firestorm of protest all over the world, and is occurring at the same time that Israel's submarines, armed with nukes, are near the shores of Iran.

Israel and Turkey used to be allies; but their souring relationship is likely to come to a stark end, as Turkish citizens were killed in this fiasco at sea. It's also been reported, in the Guardian, that the Greek captain of one of the small ships was shot; and officials in Athens are reported to be angry.

Over a year ago our country was in a transition period; and while Barack Obama celebrated being President-Elect, Israel was invading Gaza in what was certainly a massacre, killing way over 1,400 people. Israel used up, consumed in fact, all of the moral reputation it had left. And in the United States especially, a cone of silence was carefully adjusted over international new reports which, from time to time, detailed the story of torture of non-Jews in Israeli custody.

There is a kind of emotional deadening that surrounds Americans, like a protective layer, when it comes to the crimes of Israel's right-wing government.

Yet the paranoid pathology has become a part of Israel now. Its policy is against its own interests. And the policy of the US follows Israel, wherever Israel goes diplomatically, and will defend Israel (apparently to the death) no matter what Israel does.

Well you don't need a Book of Revelation, or a dowsing rod, or the Farmer's Almanac, to see where that leads. Plant by the full moon and dig deeply into the Earth.

Returning to this latest horror, the Palestinians in Gaza are still living in the rubble, and no relief so far is coming to relieve them. The right-wing Israeli government used its military to turn this place into a desperate ghetto, one that hangs onto life with the trickle of humanitarian goods that Israel allows in by road.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

--St. Matthew, Chapter 10, verses 28-29

When British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew sky high, and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, we all became implicated in a disaster that continues to gush out oil, some 5,000 feet underwater.

We are, most of us, conscious of the augeries, that is to say, the omens and shadows that are crossing our path. We go on working even as work slips away or has less effect in sustaining us. If we are writers; we keep writing even when we are tired. If we are parents worried about our children; we send them to school, and remain worried about their future.
...we defy augery: there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The
readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows
what is't to leave betimes, let be.

--Hamlet, Act 5, scene 2
The Deepgulf Gusher exceeds being a metaphor for self-destruction, or a sign of the Gilded Age, a corporate heyday of looting and plunder. Right before our eyes, our own government is presenting a hands-off attitude to it; and every four days becomes a tick-tock, tick-tock of the Doomsday Clock, as another load of pollution is disgorged into the Gulf, a size that matches the Exxon Valdez dump every four days.

And BP is thinking of injecting golf balls and other debris into the rupture to jam it up. What a joke. The company's liability is being capped; and that is the chief priority of our so-called civilization. How should we expect recovery of damages once a precious ecological resource is destroyed?--once the food resource, the livelihood of fishermen is destroyed in that entire region?

We look in vain to our public institutions, our president, for accountability. Civic values have been twisted in recent years into the shape of a monstrosity. We can blame ourselves, I guess, for our sins of omission, and our failure to persuade. But there is also the intellectual laziness of this society to consider, and for what Matt Taibbi has called "...middle Americans' moronic fantasies about themselves" and their willingness to have their egos massaged by the likes of rogue politician, Sarah Palin; for these reasons, we have come to this absurd fork in the road.

The nation has been so propagandized by the well-heeled experts in that art; and over time the people themselves have become comfortable or trapped in a militarized society. It's true that millions of Americans--people we recognize every day-- have embraced "the cult of the warrior"; and they measure themselves against the cult status of the rich--those who must never on any occasion--be taxed.

The political reach of corporate power is out of control, a menace that has yet to be curbed under our present system. Big Oil and the financial sector are all that represents freedom in the halls of Congress--they are citizens of a government now. And we are out in the cruel wasteland of what was once a republic.



An upcoming UN report says that providing safe zones for fish stocks to recover, and cutting back drastically on commercial fishing fleets, is the only hope to avoid a worldwide disaster.

Oceans’ fish could disappear in 40 years: UN

(Source: Agence France-Presse)
The Green Economy report estimates there are 35 million people fishing around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people financially linked to 520 million.

According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.

The main scourge, the UNEP report says, are government subsidies encouraging ever bigger fishing fleets chasing ever fewer fish -- with little attempt to allow the fish populations to recover.

Friday, April 30, 2010


From Harper's Index, Harper's Magazine, May 2010:
Number of reported US drone attacks in Pakistan since Obama's inauguration: 78

Number during George W. Bush's entire presidency: 45
One criticism of President Obama and his team, that will stick, is that they allow the regressive political trends of the late past to grow worse and worse. A smattering of conservatives and libertarians, and all those hopeful liberals, leftists, progressives, who were holding their breath in anticipation of change, can now exhale. The exhilaration has escaped...and the body politic becomes torpid. As a result, the president himself expresses regret, and finds it no simple matter to undo the mistrust.

How incredible it is to consider the president's repeated use of the past tense: his claim that he "closed" the infamous Guantanamo camp, a routine phrase used in several speeches, after he moved into the White House. No such closing has happened.

The ACLU recently reprimanded Obama's administration for treating the whole world, the planet itself, as a battlefield; as Obama imitates the war powers of George W. Bush, who preceded him in office.

What is flawed goes well beyond one particular policy or another, because the real concern is the whole philosophy of American power.

In March, Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. spoke to an audience of foreign affairs specialists in Arlington, Virginia:
Altogether, we spend more on military power than the rest of the world--friend or foe--combined. (This way we can defeat everyone in the world if they all gang up on us. Don't laugh! If we are sufficiently obnoxious, we might just drive them to it.) No one questions this level of spending or asks what it is for. Politicians just tell us it is short of what we require. We have embraced the cult of the warrior. The defense budget is its totem.

[...] Liberal interventionists often join the neocons in their eagerness to remake the world in our image. Hence, the war to secure Afghanistan for feminism and other undeniably worthy causes not normally associated with that country. Americans are learning the hard way that armed evangelism and the diplomacy-free foreign policy associated with it give birth to more enemies than they kill. But what's done is done. We're addicted to military surges and the substitution of campaign plans for strategies. We just can't seem to quit.

[...] Amazingly, as an example, we retain a touching faith in sanctions as an instrument of coercive influence. Our diplomacy follows a predictable pattern. It begins with bluster, experiments with covert action, then proceeds to demands that others join us in sanctions, which become a diplomatic end in themselves. When sanctions fail--as they always do, we put the bombers in the air and the tanks on the dirt...
The language that Freeman sees us reduced to, is commanded by firepower, because appeals to reason would brand us as wimps, and the folks on the receiving end of the violence are really "not like us" at all. That is sadly the guiding philosophy of American power.

And what is happening on the stage of our domestic politics sometimes seems inhuman. About 400,000 people have been deported from the country in a year's time. The ICE paramilitary, the new immigration enforcers, began in the Bush years, rounding up people by the thousands, incarcerating whole families. Now this force has been disappearing those it nabs, denying those in custody access to lawyers, warehousing prisoners in nondescript unmarked facilities, shuffling them around without providing lists or the exact location of prisoners, making these inmates invisible.

Professor Jaqueline Stevens is credited with breaking this story of the "unmarked holding areas" and stockrooms that doubled as cells.

Adios, muchachos.

No more stooping to pick our cheap veggies for shit wages. No more losing hands and fingers in our slaughterhouses. NAFTA and our monsters of patented seeds and genetically altered crops, big shits like Monsanto, Frankenstein corporations, drove a million farmers in Mexico to ruin.

But who has to pay the pound of flesh? Who has to be uprooted? Who is held without legal counsel? Who is disappeared without a paper trail? Who is rounded up in Arizona?--America's first fascist state? If it can be done to these scapegoats; it can be done to you in good time. Despite the official disclaimers of Arizona's statehouse, it's become a crime to be brown, to look Hispanic. Only those who are targets are expected to carry birth certificates in that state. People can be arrested, stopped and questioned, because they reflect a particular heritage.

Yet on some level it's remarkable that Barack Obama, the country's chief executive, our first African-American president, can be blandly criticizing Arizona's new power; but at the same time, a department of his own federal police apparatus, The ICE, is running amok.

There's a connection between the violence this government inflicts on the unfortunate people in foreign lands, who stand in its way, and the violence it inflicts on the most powerless people in its own neighborhoods.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I saw "Avatar" a few days ago; and I guess you have to take James Cameron's anti-war film as an allegory. That's what Michael Moore has said about it: that it's "an allegory about what's happening now, set in the future".

The film is simply beautiful in its own right, also, and should be seen before it leaves the big screen.

Formula arises out of the action figure who saves the day, which we have seen a gazillion times in pop culture. Much that is of comic book appeal does not undermine the reversal of identification-- like magnetic poles switching-- in terms of who the audience identifies with in the movie. Cameron deserves credit, some credit; since species identification is otherwise a primordial reflex; and it turns out that we wonder early in the film, along with the Navian shaman, whether the insanity of human beings (the sky people) is correctable at all.

Any film maker who can turn sympathy in this way deserves credit. There's a lot in the film which shows our imperial culture being itself, and the evidence of what we have become is a stark feature of this film. There is a replication of all the ways in which technology in the West has crushed the spiritualism of every nature-centered culture it ever encountered.

The land is polluted by those who come to take from the people, using the familiar "might makes right" mandate, to steal resources from those who can be intimidated. The "sky people", who killed what remained of the green on their own world, are completely unreformed in any moral sense; and they come plundering across the reaches of interstellar space to extract minerals from Pandora, and of course are threatening to make yet another world sterile.

Quite apart from projecting the mythical world of the Navians, with all the mythologies of our ancient people superimposed upon them, the formulas of adulation for heroes included, and the triumph of the spiritual over the meanness of acquisitiveness and conquest; this film is more importantly about the grim fate that awaits a civilization that feeds on invasive violence and exploitation.

Cameron's achievement is to show what history has in store for us, the destroyers of worlds. The human race is scouring the universe for an element, a rare mineral called "Unobtainium"; the human race has left its own sterile rock, after killing the green goddess Gaia, its own mother; and matricide is not enough for it, and it can't be satisfied until the mother is killed everywhere, in every form known to sentient beings. Human beings have at last found ultimate gratification in becoming one with their killing machines, in worshiping at their own godhead, which is Mammon. Human beings are not to be satisfied until all lesser creatures kneel before them, until they have subdued and fucked all their prey.

Cameron, with some genius, has artfully identified homo sapiens here, as the alien army of occupation, an army in defeat, a disarmed bunch of mercenaries, being marched back to their transport vessels, for repatriation back to their own dead world.

This article is cross-posted at le speakeasy.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


A society that tortures and kills those placed entirely in it's power and passes this fact by as a matter of indifference truly is plunging into the dark side of the world.
--Scott Horton

Anyone who expects better of the Obama administration should not look for any fresh glimmer of leadership or any bending of the arc of history towards justice. The results are in. This administration is closing its eyes to some of the foulest crimes to have been committed by government and military personnel during the Bush/Cheney years. The murder by torture of three prisoners at Guantanamo prison on the 9th of June, 2006, and the cover-up of that killing, is one example.

A Yemeni man, Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, and two Saudi men, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, seem to have upset their captors by staging a hunger strike over the conditions of their captivity. Yet these men posed no danger to the United States; they were young men in their twenties and thirties; and they were not advised that, in fact, the authorities were working towards releasing them.

It's important to note that when the prisoners' bodies were returned to their next of kin, their throats had been removed.
In 2006, the use of a gagging restraint had already been connected to the death on January 9, 2004, of an Iraqi prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Jameel, in the custody of the Army Special Forces. And the bodies of the three men who died at Guantanamo showed signs of torture, including hemorrhages, needle marks, and significant bruising. The removal of their throats made it difficult to determine whether they were already dead when their bodies were suspended by a noose. (Horton, Harper's Magazine, March 2010)
From Scott Horton's investigation in Harper's Magazine, the horrific sequence of events is reconstructed. Sometime during the evening of June 9th, Guantanamo guards observed these men being transferred after dark from Camp Delta, along a route to a clandestine camp they knew only as a landmark, and by reputation, that was dubbed "Camp No", a name that implied that one was not supposed to talk about it.

According to Horton's article, The U.S. Naval Criminal Investigation Service issued a report two years after the deaths at Guantanamo.
[...] The Pentagon declined to make the NCIS report public, and only when pressed with Freedom of Information Act demands did it disclose parts of the report, some 1,700 pages of documents so heavily redacted as to be nearly incomprehensible. The NCIS documents were carefully cross-referenced and deciphered by students and faculty at the law school of Seaton Hall University in New Jersey, and their findings, released in November 2009, made clear why the Pentagon had been unwilling to make its conclusions public. The official story of the prisoners' deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report--a reconstruction of events--was simply unbelievable.
According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell's eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated.
And going back to 2006, it should be remembered that as these deaths were being announced to the world by Rear Admiral Harry Harris, commander of Guantanamo, that he added mockery of the dead and "affliction to their families", to the crime that had been committed in secret, which he was busy describing as suicide. And it should never be forgotten that Harris, the camp commander, lividly refused any interpretation by the press, that the three prisoners acted from desperation, taking their own lives in despair, because of their treatment in the hands of the US military, or because they resolved to give up their lives rather than face endless detention.

No, the story for public consumption was as bizarre as it was politically expedient. According to the official line, the dead men had synchronized their suicides as a potent kind political theater, and what Harris described as "an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us". Coleen Graffy threw in her two cents, representing the State Department, as diplomatic Deputy Assistant Secretary: "Taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good PR move".
On the day of these deaths in 2006, the American commander in Guantanamo violated the Homeric rules of decorum by taunting the dead and afflicting their families. The deceased prisoners "have no regard for human life," he said. But in the end we must ask to whom these words more appropriately attach--the prisoners or those who have orchestrated the tragedy at Guantanamo?
(Horton, Auden--The Shield of Achilles, from Harper's Magazine)
The Obama Administration is trying to close the book on this and other investigations of torture. These Bush Administration crimes are off limits to prosecution; and if we are to judge by Horton's instinct that the Justice Department has its own secrets to hide, the continuing cover-up and obstruction of justice is still the policy, even if the joint is under new management.

Other news this week can serve as a reminder of where this country is heading: the vote in the House to approve renewal of the PATRIOT Act, unmodified. The bill was passed in the Senate by a voice vote, without debate. The offending measures, the most odious of which were hotly debated during the Bush years, are still around. The Thursday vote in the House was 315-97. The bill is now slinking to the Oval Office, where the President is expected to sign it on Sunday.

Raw Story reported that a few of our stalwarts, like Dennis Kucinich, were irate on our behalf:
The title of his press release pleaded for congress to "repeal" the Patriot Act and "restore Constitutional rights to Americans."
On this occasion, Congressman Kucinich recalled the words of Shane Harris, National Journal correspondent, on how we were witnessing the rise of an "American Surveillance State". And Kucinich added, "We have come to love our fears more than we love our freedoms".

Monday, January 11, 2010


Practically no one shouted "Long live France!" but everyone called out "Long live de Gaulle!" In moments of great distress or great joy, the crowd has a natural tendency to turn to one man and make him the symbol of their need to admire or be protected.
--Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace/Algeria 1954-1962
The culture of illusion, the Empire of Illusion, is failing to recognize the inevitable decline. It's not just that we can't pay for the lifestyles that we are maintaining internally, we can't pay for empire. [...] And if you look in the twilight period of any empire [...] people fall into this collective state of self-delusion, where they are utterly unable to see the walls literally collapsing around them. [...]

Things are so grim that there becomes this retreat into illusion. And what is illusion? It's really a state of eternal childishness. It's a kind of infantilizing of a society. But the danger is that, as that gap or chasm opens up between the illusion and reality--eventually it becomes impossible--when you're being foreclosed from your home, when your unemployment insurance runs out, when you are bankrupt because of medical bills.

It becomes impossible to ignore the reality. But if you're not prepared for it, then you react as children, which is to look for a savior or a demagogue, to save you from these inexplicable forces that you have not been prepared for, emotionally, intellectually, or psychologically. And that's the danger.
--Chris Hedges, from a lecture at The New School in New York.
They don't call it asymmetric war for nothing. On one side you have the most stupendous empire of the modern era, fit out with GPS electronics, satellite, video and laser-guided munitions, remote-controlled assassin drones, cluster bomblets that look like brightly-colored Christmas ornaments, pimped-out helicopters, tanks, fighter jets, killer mercenaries and CIA/Special Ops who answer to no one, boosted by torturers, buggerers, wiretappers, secret police and media whores.

And against this, what? A Nigerian kid who straps explosives to his nutsack.

Too many Americans avoid the crucial question,--how did this happen? And I don't mean how the kid got on an international flight to Detroit. Although that, too, is a good question. How did we, as a nation, get ourselves into an absurd military adventure that is guaranteed to bankrupt our government? Why is the president pressing ahead with a policy that will drive the country off a cliff? Every American who flies will now get a pat-down, in the region of the crotch, per the new security directive. Before long, boarding an aircraft will involve a rectal exam. I wonder if we will be able to cross the borders, then?

The Algerian War was a grave test of the survival of French democracy; their public was confronted with the reality of torture, used by French descendants in Algeria, Pieds-Noirs, who applied state sponsored violence against insurgent violence, to put down political struggle and armed movement for Algerian independence, that many in the Arab population were fighting for, or strongly supported. There was an attempted military coup, led by French generals in Algeria, to overthrow the government in France, and depose Charles de Gaulle. French people finally understood that justifying any means to put down the revolution in Algeria, abandoning any moral constraint, just to keep Algeria, was far too high a price to pay.

But President Obama doesn't seem troubled by the price, however high, of maintaining our culture of illusion. Obama's war is an endlessly proliferating war, and increasingly, a war against civilians, even a war against the stability of societies. And Obama is giving up his base, and has disillusioned even the progressives who once argued on his behalf, the people who saw in his candidacy a glimmer of hope, that this nation might get out of its militarism under his leadership, might cease to occupy countries and kill children.

But Obama is just another hollow president with his hollow words proclaiming what a great people we are.

And the unsuccessful Christmas Day bomber, Umar, with his charbroiled balls, becomes the subject of pious magazine articles; articles which do not mull over our vicious foreign policy, but instead speculate about "the mind of a terrorist". Meanwhile, somewhere on an Air Force base in the American West, a pilot is guiding a Reaper drone to the kill zone. He is sitting on the other side of the world as he pulls the trigger on his victims. He watches the video and moves the joystick, like some kid would, in an arcade. He sees a little puff of smoke where the house was. And on the other side of the earth, somewhere in the mountains a whole family perishes: father, mother, children. They are burned to death, blown to pieces, crushed under tons of rubble.

Chris Hedges reveals how war ravages everyone it touches:
War's effects are what the state and the press, the handmaiden of the war makers, work hard to keep hidden. If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be harder to embrace the myth of war.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Stand-Up Robbers

by Grayson

Bullets fired by Bonnie and Clyde
in Platte City, 1933. Slugs found
in a bank in Grand Haven, sprayed
into plaster by Baby Face Nelson, 1934.

Banks in South Bend, Sioux Falls,
Bluffton, Indianapolis, East Chicago, Racine,
hit by John Dillinger and various
associates, Nelson, Makley, Pierpont,

Homer Van Meter; as well as armories
in Auburn and Greencastle, where they
helped themselves to shotguns, .45's,
and Thompson submachine guns.

John D. got away with $300,000,
a king's ransom in those days,
before he was sold out and gunned down
by the perverted Hoover's craven cowards.

Nowadays, the bankers are stealing
more than all the Dillingers, Nelsons,
and Van Meters since the invention of
money; the Wall Street boys have misplaced

more than Johnny ever dreamed of; yet,
not one cud-chewing pig-bellied sheriff
or sharp-dressed agent has been
dispatched to look for clues,

to follow leads, to track them,
to seek out snitches; no warrants issued
to search their hotel rooms or their homes,
to take fingerprints, collect evidence;

no order given to pick up
their wives, their girlfriends,
or their whores, for questioning;
no mayors or governors have offered

rewards for their capture,
dead or alive; not one G-Man has
pursued them across state lines;
no rangers nor deputies

have formed posses,
no deals have been cut with their pals
to rat them out, so as to lay for them
outside movie theaters, or hide

in leafy shrubbery at lonely roadsides
to massacre them in their cars
without warning, without so much as a
“Hands up, Johnny!”

But gee-willikers, wouldn't it be swell
to see some real stand-up robbers again,
with John D.'s crooked smile
and that spit-in-your eye wise-cracking

while he cleans out the tellers'
cages and hustles everyone
into the vault,
who aren't pretending to be anything

but what they are;
and wouldn't it be something
to see some good solid rounds
found in some banks again?

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...